il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \
illuminated; illuminating

Definition of illuminate

 (Entry 1 of 3)

transitive verb

1a(1) : to supply or brighten with light
(2) : to make luminous or shining
b : to enlighten spiritually or intellectually
c : to subject to radiation
d archaic : to set alight
2a : to make clear : elucidate
b : to bring to the fore : highlight a crisis can illuminate how interdependent we all are
3 : to make illustrious or resplendent
4 : to decorate (something, such as a manuscript) with gold or silver or brilliant colors or with often elaborate designs or miniature pictures


il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-nət How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \

Definition of illuminate (Entry 2 of 3)

1 archaic : brightened with light
2 archaic : intellectually or spiritually enlightened


il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-nət How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \

Definition of illuminate (Entry 3 of 3)

: one having or claiming unusual enlightenment

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Other Words from illuminate


illuminator \ i-​ˈlü-​mə-​ˌnā-​tər How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for illuminate

Synonyms: Verb

Antonyms: Verb

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Examples of illuminate in a Sentence

Verb the part of the moon illuminated by the sun A university study has illuminated the problem.
Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Last night’s Full Moon could illuminate some of your problems as well as some of your hopes and dreams. Tribune Content Agency, oregonlive, "Horoscope for Dec. 30, 2020: Libra, lay doubts to rest; Pisces, be realistic about budgets," 30 Dec. 2020 No sunlight would illuminate the crater bottom, no matter the moon’s position in orbit. David W. Brown, The New Yorker, "How We Discovered Water on the Moon," 26 Oct. 2020 History buffs may cry anachronism at some of the costume choices, but different cuts of dresses and color choices brilliantly illuminate the status and personality of their characters. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "Review: Netflix's magnificent 'Bridgerton' glitters with period drama glory," 25 Dec. 2020 Most of the brief chapters both illuminate some turning point and raise the hackles. Star Tribune, "Review: 'From These Broken Streets,' by Roland Merullo," 24 Dec. 2020 The lengthy quotations, which sometimes go on for several pages, do not necessarily illuminate anything other than Bloom’s fondness for them. Washington Post, "‘The Bright Book of Life’ examines ‘novels to read and reread’," 23 Dec. 2020 When researchers hit the sample with laser light, the particles illuminate, showing a positive ID for the virus. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "The 5 Most Cutting-Edge Ways to Diagnose COVID-19," 7 Dec. 2020 Hundreds of shooting stars will illuminate the horizon in a spectacular Geminid meteor shower, which will be active for the next couple weeks through Dec. 17, according to Alison Medley, Chron, "'Christmas Star': Double planet sighting, meteor shower expected to light up December skies," 4 Dec. 2020 In that light, the new study’s findings may also illuminate the inner workings of the White House today, and resonate with employees of the The Trump Organization, past and present. Lila Maclellan, Quartz at Work, "How a narcissistic leader infects company culture," 21 Oct. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective The problem is that, while the careful study of history can provide policymakers with powerful insights, incongruous comparisons can just as easily obscure as illuminate contemporary challenges. Richard Fontaine, The Atlantic, "The Uses and Misuses of Historical Analogy for North Korea," 3 Oct. 2017 Throughout the film, interviews reveal the pervasive abuses committed against infants, children and teens as well as illuminate groups and people who are working to stop it. Kimber Myers,, "Filmmaker-monk goes after sex trade in documentary 'Stopping Traffic'," 28 Sep. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'illuminate.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of illuminate


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1b


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1600, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for illuminate


Middle English, from Latin illuminatus, past participle of illuminare, from in- + luminare to light up, from lumin-, lumen light — more at luminary

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Time Traveler for illuminate

Time Traveler

The first known use of illuminate was in the 15th century

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Statistics for illuminate

Last Updated

19 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Illuminate.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for illuminate


How to pronounce illuminate (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of illuminate

: to supply (something) with light : to shine light on (something)
: to make (something) clear and easier to understand


il·​lu·​mi·​nate | \ i-ˈlü-mə-ˌnāt How to pronounce illuminate (audio) \
illuminated; illuminating

Kids Definition of illuminate

1 : to supply with light : light up He clutched Rose as a dazzling blast illuminated the lobby…— Brian Selznick, Wonderstruck
2 : to make clear : explain His speech illuminated the subject.

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